Written by MARK JAEGER
Tuesday, 02 July 2013 17:32
State DPI tells officials cost is too low; contract renewed with Taher
School lunch prices in the Northern Ozaukee School District will rise by 10 cents a meal in fall, but the increase is not by the School Board’s choice.
Supt. Blake Peuse initially recommended that the board increase prices by five cents, but he told the board at its June meeting that the price would be considered too low by the state Department of Public Instruction.
Peuse said the state sets lunch price guidelines, because federal funding supports school meal programs.
The district’s going rate for lunch prices is well below the state average, but the state cannot require districts to increase their meal prices by more than 10 cents a year.
Peuse said if the district refused to follow the DPI recommendations, federal aids to the district could be in jeopardy.
With that, the board accepted the recommendation that elementary lunch prices be raised from $2.05 to $2.15, and middle school and high school prices from $2.25 to $2.35.
A survey showed Northern Ozaukee has the lowest lunch charges in the region, and even with the increase will be at or near the bottom on a list of 10 districts.
Peuse said the hike would cost $18 a year for a child who uses the lunch program every day of the school year.
Milk prices will be kept at 35 cents a carton.
Board member Rick Hamm cast the only vote against raising the lunch prices, but there was general opposition to the forced price increase.
“It is ridiculous to the nth degree that we could provide a quality meal at a cheaper price, and still be required to charge more because we have to follow DPI price guidelines,” said board member Tom Hoffmann.
The board also approved a two-year contract extension with Taher, the company which has been operating the district’s meal program since 2003.
Bids were reviewed by two other meal vendors — the Minnesota provider A’viands and the Illinois company Arbor.
Peuse said Arbor projected a slightly greater savings than Taher, but whatever money is generated over the cost of the meal program goes into a segregated fund that can only be used for meal-program equipment.
“We are very satisfied with the service that Taher provides and saw no real advantage to making a switch in vendors. A change would not have resulted in a decrease in lunch costs,” he said.
Peuse said Taher has been working through challenges posed by federal authorities that require greater use of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in meals, as well as smaller portion sizes.
“We have had some discussions with them about quality, and they are very much willing to work with us,” Peuse said.